Top children’s books with a female lead

What makes a book memorable for you? For me, it is usually an engaging lead character. This is definitely the case for most of the books I remember fondly from my childhood. So, to celebrate the release of my new book, ‘Holly Watson and the furry thieves’ (which stars a ten-year-old girl), I decided to look at other children’s books with a highly engaging female lead.

My choices cover a range of reading abilities from picture books to full-length novels, but they have a couple of things in common: they all have a great female star and are brilliant for boys as well as girls. Read on to find what made my list.

Six of the best children’s books with an engaging female lead

1. The Paper Bag Princess – by Robert Munsch

Copyright: Annick Press
Copyright: Annick Press

This is a great picture book for young girls AND boys. It is a fun inversion of the usual fairytale of the princess imprisoned by the dragon. When a dragon destroy’s Princess Elizabeth’s castle and kidnaps her fiancé, Prince Ronald, she sets out to rescue him in the only clothing she has left – a paper bag. Our courageous and highly intelligent heroine’s adventure teaches her some important lessons about herself and some unpleasant truths about her husband-to-be.

2. Pippi Longstocking – by Astrid Lindgren

Pippi Longstocking is the quirky and mysterious girl who moves in next door to Tommy and Annika. She has a monkey and a horse, but, it would seem, no parents. Having been brought up at sea on her now-missing father’s ship, Pippi lacks an understanding of the conventions of urban life, a trait which makes her all the more endearing. Her wild imagination and complete lack of understanding of ‘how she should behave’ lead Pippi and her new neighbours into a series of outrageous and comical escapades.

3. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe – by C.S. Lewis

Copyright: Geoffrey Bles
Copyright: Geoffrey Bles

Though she is one of four siblings, Lucy Pevensie is the obvious star of ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’, the first book in the classic ‘Narnia’ fantasy series. It is Lucy that first enters the world of Narnia through the wardrobe and it is Lucy who then leads her three siblings into this fantastical world.  Finally, it is Lucy’s faith that wins through. For me, she is by far the most likeable of the Pevensie children as she lacks the cynicism of her brothers and demonstrates a huge generosity of spirit and a very strong will.

4. Matilda – by Roald Dahl

‘Matilda’ is one of the best of Roald Dahl’s books (which is saying something) and a character still loved almost thirty years after her creation. She is a prodigiously intelligent girl who, incredibly, is also very popular with her classmates due to her patient and kind character. However, her obnoxious parents and her terrifying headmistress, Miss Trunchball, fail to see Matilda’s gifts and treat her with the utmost disdain. When her teacher, Miss Honey, attempts and fails to get Matilda’s parents and Miss Trunchball to see our heroine’s gifts, Matilda discovers another gift – an aptitude for revenge.

5. Anne of Green Gables – by L.M. Montgomery

Orphan Anne Shirley is intelligent, imaginative and eager to please. Due to a misunderstanding at her orphanage, she is sent to work on a farm in the wilds of Nova Scotia. The farm’s owners, brother and sister Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert, are expecting a boy to be sent to them, but Anne’s good nature and willingness to help soon dispel their disappointment. Her chattiness and imagination, though, bring her into conflict with Marilla and she also finds her red hair makes her the object of teasing from some of her new classmates. The beauty of this book is that we get to watch Anne grow and we see her flaws as well as her many qualities.

6. Holly Watson and the furry thieves – by Barford Fitzgerald

Copyright: Barford Fitzgerald

I cannot finish my list of top children’s books with a female lead without a mention of the heroine of my new book, ten-year-old schoolgirl Holly Watson. Holly is highly intelligent, loyal and perhaps a little too sure of herself.  When her best friend Charlie is accused of stealing a mobile phone in the local park, Holly decides she is the only person who can solve the mystery. Very soon, though, she finds herself in over her head and realises that she cannot do it all alone.

Over to you

So, what are your favourite children’s books with an engaging female lead and why? Please let me know by leaving a comment below.

My latest book, ‘Holly Watson and the furry thieves’, is available now on Amazon.

4 thoughts on “Top children’s books with a female lead

  1. Ha! Sneaky 😉

    I’m a great fan of Pippi Longstocking. But my all time favorite female leads in children’s books must be Dido Twite in Joan Aiken’s incomparably good series which starts with “The Wolves of Willoughby Chase”; and Lyra Belacqua from Philip Pullman’s “His Dark Materials” trilogy.

    There’s another heroine, of course, who is quite close to my heart, but I wouldn’t be so cheeky as to mention her on your blog. 🙂

    Glad to see Holly has finally reached the world. May you sell many books and receive many good reviews!

    1. Thank you for the additions and the kind comments, Austin.

      It’s funny you mention Dido Twite and Lyra Belacqua as both were on my list for consideration. In fact, Lyra only just missed out. I even thought about doing an ‘Honourable mentions’ bit at the end with them in. Maybe I will have to do a part 2.

      Your own Harriet from ‘Beyond the Starline’ (whom I am happy to mention) is another great contender.

      All the best.

  2. Enjoyed Austen’s generous comments and additions to the great heroines’ list. Anne Shirley every time for me. Best of luck to Holly and may all her detecting be hugely successful

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